Going in circles to drain away stress


Students walk a labyrinth Wednesday morning in the Memorial Union Sun Room. The labyrinth is an ancient contemplative tool and a new addition to Dead Week stress-relievers. Photo by Christopher Gannon.

Students have many options for relieving the dread of Dead Week stress, including a new one this fall with ancient roots.

A labyrinth in the Memorial Union Sun Room Wednesday added to a host of study-break stress reducers this week that includes therapy dogs, coloring books and chair massages. The event ran from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and had drawn more than two dozen participants by about 2 p.m.

A labyrinth looks like a circular maze, but there's no need to solve it because there are no dead ends. One meandering path leads to a center. Similar patterns are found in various cultures throughout history. Walking the route of a labyrinth is a form of meditation.

"The idea is to clear your mind and quiet yourself," said Mark Rowe-Barth, student wellness director. "It's just a great way to reduce stress, relax and just be."

The student wellness department purchased the canvas labyrinth this summer. Rowe-Barth learned of labyrinths while working as associate director in student wellness at the University of Northern Iowa, which regularly offers labyrinth walks.

Rowe-Barth said he hopes use of the labyrinth canvas will grow, perhaps including an outdoor event this spring or summer. The biggest limitation for indoor use is space, he said. The 108-pound canvas is 36 feet by 36 feet.

"You can't have it just anywhere," he said.